My wife and I took a road trip last Saturday to Manning for the specific purpose of visiting McCabe's. This is probably the farthest we've ever traveled just for BBQ or any other food for that matter. What should have been a 90 minute one-way trip to Manning turned into a two hour one thanks to the wisdom of the Highway Department, who closed down one lane of 26 north of Summerville and backed up traffic for almost 10 miles. The trip back to Charleston was closer to 90 minutes.
True to the rule of thumb that SC BBQ places that bear Scottish names serve V&P BBQ (and those that bear German names serve mustard 'cue), McCabe's dishes out whole hog 'cue with a vinegar and pepper sauce. Though the dining area is small, it is attached to a complex of buildings that includes the pit house, where the pigs are cooked over wood coals.
Unique to the numerous versions of Carolina 'cue that I've sampled, McCabe's pulls their pork in long strands or ropes. With plastic forks the only utensils at hand, I was reduced to sucking up some of the strands spaghetti-style. It takes a little getting used to, but I actually liked this "long-pulled" style of 'cue. The pork itself was moist and subtly smoky, except when hitting pieces of bark or outside brown, where the smoke flavor was much more pronounced. The sauce itself surprised me a little--there was definitely a little sweetener of some kind balancing the vinegar tartness. I actually liked this quite a bit.
Sides on the buffet included excellent fried chicken, hash and rice, perloo (pilau), slaw, sweet potatoes, okra and tomatoes, butter beans, green beans, and hushpuppies. I really liked the perloo, a pork version. The hash was also pretty good--based on appearance, I'm guessing it was an offal hash, but it didn't have an "organy" flavor to it; instead, black pepper seemed to be the most distinct flavor. The hushpuppies were just okay--a little dry and flavorless for my tastes. I like how the range of food at a place like McCabe's very much resembles the spread you get at an eastern NC BBQ joint, with the exception that SC's rice culture substitutes perloo and hash with rice in place of BBQ potatoes and Brunswick stew.
So was the overall experience worth the drive? I'd say it's a definite yes. This is the best V&P 'cue I've had in SC. I don't think I'll make a habit of driving all the way to Manning just for the BBQ, but I can definitely see myself detouring out there if I'm passing by I-95 and have a little time to kill. This is more than I can say for my impression of Sweatman's, which I liked pretty well but sort of saw as a "one and done" deal after my visit.
McCabe's is open Thursday through Saturday only. The Saturday hours are 10 am to 3 pm and I think it's the same for the rest of the days, but calling ahead is never a bad idea.
Special thanks to GrillMaster for this post about how drink orders are handled at McCabe's: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5138... Without it, I probably wouldn't have had a clue where our sweet teas ended up!